Monday, March 06, 2006

Can you hear it?

Many many years ago. A hot summer's day. First day of the academic year. I was walking back from school with a new friend. We reached an intersection, and she and I had to go different ways.
"Bye! It was good to meet you!" I called out to her.
There were a group of guys in a car parked close to us.
"Bye to her... now meet ussssss", they called out, with wolf-whistles.
I was being eve-teased. For the first time in my life. I was horrified, and nearly struck dumb. But I desperately wanted to impress my new friend.
"Mind your own business, Mister, or I will tell the police", I hollered, in true Bollywood style.
"Oye!" said one, and opened one door of the car.
That was it. All my bravado vanished and I ran home as fast as my skinny ten-year-old legs could carry me. I reached home and half-proud, half-scared, poured it all out to my mother. She listened, eyes widening.
"Where was that car parked?"
"In front of the bar!", said I, nonchalantly.
"Shruthi! Those guys could have been drunk! They could have done anything! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT answer back to them! Just ignore them!"

So I obediently ignored all subsequent eve-teasers until I was in my mid-teens. That age when you want to rebel against everything. That age when your blood starts getting heated up. And also that age, when eve-teasing really takes root in a girl's life. I started retaliating. I began with glares. I considered answering back. But I heard from my friends' experiences, that answering back just encourages them, and that many of the girls ended up being followed all the way home. So I gave up on that. If anybody "accidentally" brushed passed me, I would lash out with all my strength. Soon, I became street-smart. I could identify potential eve-teasers, and when they walked towards me, arms swinging, fingers poised to make contact with me, I would just swerve at the last moment and walk away coolly.

But after some time, verbal harassment became so commonplace that it did not even register in my head. Or probably I just pretended that nothing ever happened, in concern for my own sanity and mood. I wonder at what point we give up. At what point we give it up as a lost case. At what point we become immune.

But what is unfair for the men, is that just because of a few obnoxious specimens, we tend to look at every man with suspicion. But that does not mean we loosen up and start giving the men the benefit of doubt. We cannot afford that luxury.

My mother tells me that eve-teasing was rampant in her younger days. Her reasoning is that it was the only way the poor males could establish contact with the girls, because the times were such that males and females did not talk to each other, even in college. My mother had not talked to any of the guys in her class. Now, it is much more open, youngsters go out in mixed groups all the time, so males are not really frustrated, and thus eve-teasing has reduced. I see sense in her logic.

Probably that is why I find that eve-teasing has reduced drastically here in Bangalore. I can now walk on the roads with ease, without worrying about being bothered. I think men are definitely better-behaved nowadays, at least in Bangalore.

Even Mumbai, of which I had heard so much, was kind to me. Ok, granted, I did not travel too often in the local trains, but I personally found that the men kept to themselves. I was actually surprised. What a sad state of affairs! Being surprised when a man behaves decently! Anyway, I have heard lots of stories of Mumbai, but luckily, I was spared of all the degradation.

In stark contrast was Delhi. I spent just four days there, and I felt terribly violated, just by the way the men looked at me. In fact, the first day, I had worn jeans and a short top, and so the next day, I came out with baggy trousers and a loose shirt (hadn't carried Indian clothes with me, else would have worn that). But still it did not get better. I realized it was not my clothes, but it was just that I was a female. Harassment need not be just verbal or physical, I realized. The lewd look, eyes glazed, mouth open, saliva almost dripping.... to say the least, I was disgusted. Good I do not live in Delhi. How do the women there put up with it?

Once bitten, twice shy. Even now, when I see suspicious would-be perpetuators on the street, automatically my shoulders straighten up, my chin goes up, my stride becomes longer, my arms swing faster, and every muscle of the body is poised - for what? For ignoring them? For that is what happens usually!

Written in support of Blank Noise Project Blog-a-thon 2006. I am not sure how much this write-up will help in improving the situation. Maybe enough testimonials might cause a snowballing effect, and result in a law being passed against eve-teasers that recognizes eve-teasing as the heinous offence that it is. Or maybe someone, somewhere, will read this and think twice before stooping low. Unlikely? But is there a law against hoping?

Exploring the reasons behind eve-teasing..


Sri Harsha said...

Gud cause to be a part of Shruthi.

I really don't understand why some people do this, knowing tht they are hurting someone emotionally.

I hope this evil gets completely eradicated bck home!

Muse said...

A lovely piece, beautifully phrased, I think!

Nirwa said...

Shruthi, your incident reminded me about something that happened to me in my initial months of college.. must write on it! :)


chitra said...

Howdu Shruthi.... yen maaDodu antha ondodu baari gothaagode illa !

Shruthi said...

@Harsha: Yup! But you know, I don't think they really know that they are hurting someone. I have heard people claim that women enjoy the attention. Bull s**t. Whistling at someone is no way to compliment somebody and given them "attention". What do we do to such men? :(

@Muse: Hey, thanks so much! :)

@Nirwa: Aha! Do write it soon, will look out for it!

@Chitra: Yup :( What do we do? Retaliate? Ignore? If we retaliate, it might get unpleasant. If you ignore, you can safely go your way. But retaliation gives a strange satisfaction! But you do not always feel like doing that! Sigh!

Manasi said...

hey nice post. And talks for all of us girls. Same experiences everywhere!

Anonymous said...

hmmm, may be...though am not so sure abt it.
this is a kind of post which make u unsure what to comment....

dev said...

how abt gettin even.. adam teasing..!

jst kidding..

dunoo wat to say.. a nice post..!

Supremus said...

Is it just me or does anyone else feels that all women in blogosphere (especially!) have been target of eve teasing hehehehe :D. I dont think blogs or blog-a-thons can change the world, nor the does the sadak chap romeo will read the blogs and change...

Good writeup, this is the best written piece amongst all I read on this topic... there were some utter trash and fake posts too, but yours comes accorss as genuine and heartfelt!

Keep it going...


Shruthi said...

@Manasi: Thanks! Yes, I'm sure the incidents will be similar.. just different people and places.....

@Anon:Never mind, there is so much to say, yet so little to say....

@Dev: :) Thanks!

@Suyog: Hey thanks! But it seems like all girls in the blogosphere have had this experience, but the truth is that all girls would have been victims of eveteasing, and the girls in the blogosphere are just writing about it. Simple!

Rajit said...

What the blog-a-thon has done is, it has made us aware of the enormity of the problem, has given us more reasons to react and help out if someone is going through the mistreatment in front us.

But for the blogs, I wouldn't have known the magnitude and frequency of this problem, though I knew it just existed.


Shruthi said...

@Rajit: That's wonderful! :) Thanks so much for your comment, you made my day :)

Abhinav said...

yea the society is full of jerks.
>>Probably that is why I find that eve-teasing has reduced drastically here in Bangalore
i suggest take a walk to MG or Forum in the evening on weekends.
Few of my fren carry a big safety-pin when they she travel in a DTC bus.

Shruthi said...

@Abhinav: Oh, I have walked on the streets of MG Road and Forum enough times to know what I am talking about! :) And yes, I need the info from a girl ;)

The Rebel said...

This is the first time I'm reading something from your stable and yeah I'm impressed. :)

That was definitely a very touching piece and it came straight-from-heart.

Eve teasing is really a black spot on the society's face. And to eradicate it, co-opeartion of both women and cops is required.

In our city we had this "Mahila Garima Operation", and if a girl was being eve-teased anywhere, she could call on a given number and immediate help was sent to her, with strict action being taken against the guilty party.

It helped reduce the eve-teasing cases a great deal.

And yeah as far as Delhi is concerned - that's the worst city possible for women. Mumbai is still female friendly.

Shruthi said...

@The Rebel: Thanks a lot for the nice words! :)
You did not mention which your city is. Mahila Garima Operation sounds really good! I am sure thats a great way to combat eve-teasing.


Wonderful piece of work ,completely agree with you .....

Shruthi said...

Stalag: Thank you!

Sharad said...

I have read a number of posts pertaining to the Blank Noise Project and yes, at times I am surprised by the sheer number of incidents that every girl has to talk about. As a guy, admittedly, I cannot claim to comprehend the pain completely, but I am definitely much more sensitized to the problem now...
Shruthi, amazing post. As for the reasons of this disease, I think a part of a man's psyche is like his blood group -- cannot be changed. There are some men who remain as frivolous at 50 as they were at 15. Nothing changes them. Not even the fact that they might have young daughters back home.
But there are others who understand, who grow up, who have the ability to see things from the other side.
Perhaps this Project will increase the number of such men. Hopefully.

Shruthi said...

Sharad: Thank you! That is what I hope too, and that is the only reason I so whole-heartedly participated in this project - that maybe, somewhere, it will make a difference.

Jasmeen said...

really enjoyed reading your post...

hope your leg gets better soon!

thanks for sharing!

- -